Rainwater, as it falls on the roof of a house, is largely free of bacterial or chemical contamination. However, during collection and storage, this can change.
Water collected in rainwater tanks is vulnerable to faecal (microbiological) contamination by birds and other small animals, such as possums, when their droppings on roofs and in gutters wash into the rainwater tank when it rains. And because roofs, gutters and tanks are often inadequately maintained and cleaned, their neglect can also compromise the water quality.
Rainwater that is collected in tanks does not undergo the same testing and treatment as drinking water that’s supplied to households by a water utility, such as SA Water.
For these reasons, you may be concerned about the quality of the rainwater you use, especially when its used for drinking or cooking purposes.
Should you get your rainwater tested?
In general, residential properties using rainwater tanks don’t need to conduct rainwater testing. Note. SA Health and other Australian State Departments of Health do not recommend routine testing of rainwater collected in domestic tanks. Consequently, we recommend that you follow the advice they provide about maintaining a clean supply of rainwater instead of having your water professionally tested.
You can contact Victoria's Department of Health on 1300 65 0172 or visit this page of its website for further information.
However, if you have a specific cause for concern and would like to test the quality and safety of your rainwater or have been directed to us from SA Health, we can provide you with expert sampling and testing services for private rainwater tanks.
We offer a package (see table below) of microbiological and chemical and pH tests for water contained in rainwater storage tanks. The analyses included in our test package have been developed based on SA Health and Victoria Health recommendations.
Water in rainwater tanks can sometimes be contaminated by micro-organisms from human or animal faeces. Bird and possum faeces are the most common. The micro-organism tested (E.coli) will provide you with an indication if your rainwater has been contaminated in this way.
Chemical contaminants can be present in airborne dust. Sources include car exhaust fumes and agricultural/industrial chemical emissions. Lead based paints or flashing used on some older roofs may also flake off. All these contaminants can be washed from roofs into rainwater tanks. The common chemical contaminants in rainwater are iron, lead, zinc and copper. Acidity or pH are also tested to provide an idea of the general water quality.
|Test||ADWG guideline value||Comments|
|From corrosion of pipes/fittings by soft, low pH water. Taste threshold 3 mg/L. High concentrations colour water blue-green. >1 mg/L may stain fittings. >2 mg/L can cause ill effects in some people.|
|Lead||0.01mg/L health||Occurs in water via dissolution from natural sources or household plumbing containing lead (e.g. pipes, solder).|
|Iron||0.3 mg/L aesthetic||Occurs naturally in water, usually <1mg/L, but up to 100mg/L in oxygen depleted groundwater. Taste threshold 0.3mg/L. High concentrations stain laundry and fittings.|
|Zinc||3 mg/L aesthetic||Usually from corrosion of galvanised pipes/fittings and brasses. Natural concentrations generally <0.01 mg/L. Taste problems >3 mg/L.|
|Nickel||0.02 mg/L health||Drinking water generally contains very low concentrations of nickel. Long term exposure may result in toxic effects to the kidneys. Nickel is known to be a common skin allergen and can cause dermatitis particularly in younger women|
|E. coli||0/100mL health||Sample should NOT contain any E.coli|
Step 1. Quote
After we receive your application for testing, we email you a Customer Service Request for your review and acceptance. This is an important step, as we cannot progress the process until we receive the signed agreement in return.
Step 2. Rainwater tank sampling kit
As per the agreed quote, you can:
- collect the rainwater tank sampling kit from our Adelaide or Melbourne laboratory.
- have the rainwater tank sampling kit couriered to your residential address, or
- opt for an AWQC field technician to collect the samples.
Please note: We can only accept samples from bottles supplied by us as these have been quality-checked. We do not accept samples that have been collected in the wrong containers.
The rainwater sampling kit comprises bottles and a small esky container that is used to keep the samples chilled.
Step 3. Collecting the samples
It is important to follow the sampling instructions included in your rain water tank sampling kit if you are collecting the sample.
If you have requested the sample to be collected by an AWQC field technician*, you won’t have to worry about collecting the sample or delivering back to our lab.
Step 4: Submit your sample
Deliver within 24 hours of collection - to our Adelaide or Melbourne laboratory.
Step 5. Test results
Test results will be issued within 10 business days of receiving your sample. Reports are emailed to you in PDF and Microsoft Excel CSV formats.
The report will let you compare your results to the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. For interpretation of the test results, please contact:
SA Health’s Scientific Services on (08) 8226 7100
Department of Health Victoria - Water Unit 1300 761 874
Contact us if you don’t receive your laboratory test results within 10 business days.
Phone: 1300 653 366
How do I know if the water is safe for use?
AWQC cannot interpret the water quality test results. For interpretation of the test results, please contact the SA Health’s Scientific Services on 08 8226 7100.
|Customer collects water samples. Sample bottle set collected from our laboratories||Customer collects water samples. Sample bottle set couriered to customer.||AWQC field services officer collects samples*|
|Metropolitan Adelaide, as described with the red lines in this map.||$183.04||$213.07||$273.13|
Prices are inc.GST and for testing one sample set only. Please contact AWQC (firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 1300 653 366) for prices for additional sample sets.
*Only available in South Australia.
Proceed with testing
To proceed with testing please complete the application form below.
Soon after receipt of your application, we will email you a formal Customer Service Request (CSR) for your review and acceptance. The CSR will describe a proposed sample date (if you have opted to have the sample collected by AWQC Field Officers) and the tests we will perform. Following your review of the information in the CSR, you will will need to provide us a response to our email confirming the details are correct or advising us of any changes before we can accept your application.
^* Please note. AWQC Field Services are unable to service any areas in Victoria and are unable to service all regional areas in South Australia. Following receipt of your application, we will advise you if we cannot collect samples from your property.